How Holy Are You?
Kedoshim (Leviticus 19-20 )
Take out a minute and think about the following questions: How holy are you? What was the holiest moment you felt in your life? Who was the holiest man you ever met?
While I was writing this article, I posed these questions to someone, and this was his reply. "The holiest moment of my life was when I came to ninth grade dormitory yeshiva and experienced great difficulty in the new surroundings. I prayed to God with all my heart, and I felt that a certain prayer that I made, with fervor and tears, had pierced the heavens and was answered." The fellow paused, and then continued… "When a person reaches a holy point, he comes back to himself, he connects with himself. He reaches out to the person he should be.
"The holiest man I ever met was my ninth grade rabbi. He was not necessarily the smartest or most knowledgeable in Torah, but he was holy. He was holy because he was separated from worldly materialistic things, and had more self control than the rest of the people I know. He was not only realizing the truth - he was the truth. His self- nullification to God in his actions, thoughts and emotions all gave me this holy feeling about him."
This week's Torah portion starts off with exactly this topic: the commandment to become holy. However, there is a difference of opinion as to exactly how we understand this and to what it is referring. The Ramban learns that holiness is the act of separating oneself from overindulgence in permissible pleasures. Rashi understands it differently. When the Torah tells us that one should be holy, it says so right after discussing forbidden marital relations. The way for one to become holy, according to Rashi, is through refraining from such relations and from anything that may bring one to such a position. This includes keeping one's eyes from seeing things that can lead us astray - refraining from thoughts that may bring one to temptation. According to Rashi, this is what holiness is about- a clear mind from such thoughts and a lifestyle where we do our utmost to avoid being associated in any way with unhealthy, forbidden desires.
But why is it that only those refraining from this specific transgression merit holiness? When someone does not steal or does not kill and refrains from anything even remotely associated with such behavior - why does that not make him holy? And why, just by refraining from doing what the Torah considers abomination and unholy, does one become holy?
Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz, zt"l, explains that there is a great difference between refraining from stealing and refraining from forbidden marital pleasures. The desire for marital pleasure is one that every healthy human being has inside him from the minute when he is born; it grows and develops throughout all the stages of life. It is a great thing for a person to overcome and control this powerful, almost irresistible drive, and therefore, one can merit a level called holiness by the Torah through doing so. Refraining from a desire to steal or kill will not render one holy, for it is something that is not an inborn, human desire. The antonym of lust is holiness!
From here, it is apparent that if a person does not actively, consciously work on restraining himself from these specific things, his natural penchant - that of man - is to be corrupt in these matters.